How to Write Job Descriptions for Your Resume

job description
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When you think about job descriptions, you probably think of job ads posted by employers. But the most important job descriptions may be the ones you create yourself, when you’re describing past positions on your resume.

Job descriptions show prospective employers what you have accomplished in the positions you've held. They also provide a synopsis of your experience and skills.

Well-written descriptions for each job you have held will help get your resume noticed and selected for interviews. What's the best way to write attention-grabbing job descriptions?

How to Write Job Descriptions for Your Resume

Before you start adding job descriptions to your resume, you may want to make a list of accomplishments at each of your jobs. This will prepare you for writing your resume.

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Focus on Skills and Achievements

After you have written a job description, look for ways to make your explanation more concise. Make an effort to create effective impact statements. Highlight skills and achievements, providing only enough detail to support your premises. Try to edit out pronouns and articles. Begin phrases or sentences with verbs. Choose strong words—resume action words like “initiated” and “supervised” are powerful and show that you’ve made an impact on your team.

If you will be submitting resumes to organizations that scan them into searchable computer databases, include as many industry and job-specific "keywords" as possible. When searching databases for potential candidates, employers seek resumes with the greatest number of "hits" on keywords.

Keywords are most often nouns, e.g. “customer service” or “computer skills.” To use keywords most effectively, be specific, use as many as possible, and sprinkle them throughout your resume. 

Be Selective About What You Include

Your resume isn’t your entire work history, and you don’t need to include every duty for each role. Determine the most relevant information by putting yourself in your potential employer's position: Will this information help convince the employer that you are a worthwhile candidate to interview?

You do not have to include every responsibility you ever had. Group together similar tasks. For instance, rather than listing "Answered phones" and "Responded to customer emails" in two bullet points, you can combine and say, "Resolved customer issues through phone, email, and chat conversations."

Prioritize Job Description Information

Next, think about prioritizing the information you provide in each description. Present details that are of the greatest interest to potential employers first. For example, consider the candidate seeking a job in interior design.

The resume might reflect a retail experience in which 75 percent of the candidate's time was spent on the sales floor, and 25 percent was spent designing window and floor displays. Priority, determined by relevance to the employer, dictates that design of window and floor displays should be listed before sales.

Example:

Sales Associate, Retail USA, New York, NY October, 20XX - Present

  • Designed all large windows using color as the primary focus.
  • Created engaging point-of-purchase displays for slow moving small items; increased sales of these items by 30 percent.
  • Organized floor displays to maximize space and call attention to latest merchandise.
  • Utilized strong interpersonal and communications skills to serve customers; received employee of the month award twice.

Bottom line: Highlight your most relevant qualifications for the job by listing them first in the job description.

Quantify Your Accomplishments

Quantify as much information as you can (numbers, dollar signs, percentages can all help to make your case). A bullet point that reads "Grew traffic 35 percent year-over-year" is more impressive—and informative—than one that reads simply "Improved traffic."

Nearly any description, for any job, can be enhanced through the use of numbers. A waitress might start out with the description "Took customer orders and delivered food." But a quantified description saying, "Served customers in an upscale 100-seat restaurant," provides much more insight.

Example:

Waitress
Maxill's Restaurant, New York, NY
January 20XX - Present

  • Provided dining service for patrons at an upscale 100-seat fine dining establishment.
  • Served meals, cleared tables, monitored five tables, and provided exceptional customer service to up to 30 customers.
  • Trained new waitstaff on POS system, guest services, and restaurant policies and procedures.

Bottom line: Employers like numbers. It's much easier to look at signs and symbols than it is to read words.

Emphasize Accomplishments Over Responsibilities

It's important for employees to know you have the necessary experience to do the work required in the position. Still, many candidates will have this relevant experience. To stand out, emphasize how you added value. Focus on accomplishments, rather than responsibilities.

As seen above, numbers can be your friend when it comes to highlighting your accomplishments in your resume. As well, provide context. For instance, you might say, "Increased revenue by 5 percent, after several years of decreasing sales." Or, rather than saying "Answered phone calls and dealt with customer concerns," you can say, "Resolved customer concerns, answering approximately 10 calls per hour. Became go-to person on the team for dealing with the toughest phone calls and most challenging complaints."

While it is important to keep descriptions short, adding details and context can help show employers why you'd be a good match for the position.

Example:

Customer Service Associate, ABD Company, March 20XX - August 20XX

  • Resolved customer concerns efficiently and expeditiously, answering approximately 300 calls per week.
  • Achieved 100 percent of call performance goals for accuracy, speed, volume, resolution of issues, and customer satisfaction.
  • Nominated for employee-of-the-month four times for excellent attitude and exemplary customer service skills.

Bottom line: Employers want to know what you accomplished. Make it easy for them to see what you've done by using numbers and percentages.

Make Your Jobs Sound Better

There are easy ways to jazz up your resume job descriptions to make your jobs sound super impressive. A few simple tweaks here and there can make your resume much better.